Should the Oklahoma City Barons play games in Edmonton?

An interesting idea was raised by Calvin in the comments section yesterday. Given the poor attendance the Edmonton Oilers farm team is seeing in Oklahoma, should they play games in Edmonton at some point?

Last Season

In a lot of ways, I think that the perfect time for the Barons to play games in Edmonton might have been during last year’s post-season. The Oilers have made a habit the last few years of being on the golf course by early April, and while the Oil Kings have enjoyed playoff success I suspect there’s enough interest for two teams to play post-season games.

That interest was decidedly lacking in Oklahoma. After averaging 3,684 fans during the regular season, attendance dipped to an average of 2,632 in the playoffs. I don’t doubt that Edmonton could have furnished more fans – and fans willing to pay higher prices – to watch Magnus Paajarvi, Teemu Hartikainen and Anton Lander enjoy playoff success in the AHL.

This year, with no NHL hockey to follow and fans in Oklahoma largely indifferent to the arrival of guys like Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Justin Schultz, the appeal of the idea is obvious.

Roadblocks

There are a few largish hurdles to overcome, and they’re difficult enough that I’m not sure the idea would be practical.

1. “Replacement” players. In 2004-05, with Edmonton’s then farm team moving west to play in Rexall, Oilers executives denied that AHL hockey was a replacement for the NHL, and suggested that the team would stay in Edmonton for the foreseeable future. The reasoning behind that was understandable: the NHLPA would surely raise a stink over what it perceived to be replacement players. If the Barons started playing games in Edmonton, there would be trouble.

Whether or not the NHLPA could stop the Oilers from hosting AHL games in Rexall, it’s probably also worth wondering what bona fide NHL’ers – Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall – would think about playing in Rexall during the lockout.

2. Logistics. The AHL plays a far more unbalanced regular season schedule than the NHL, which leads to frequent matches between teams in the same geographic area. In Oklahoma’s case, that means lots of games against teams in the southern United States. Additionally, the AHL sticks games together in quick succession – of the Barons 13 games this month, just two aren’t back-to-backs and they started November with a run of three games in three days, and those games included travel.

Even if the Oilers were willing to subsidize other teams to travel to Edmonton, the logistics of such a scenario would be difficult with the current schedule. The playoffs would be significantly easier, but then there’s always the hope that the lockout ends before it comes to that.

3. Damage to the Oklahoma market. I have no idea whether the Oilers are planning to stay in Oklahoma long term, or whether tepid attendance in the face of successful teams and incredible talent has convinced them that the Barons will need to be moved at some point. Playing games in Edmonton now – particularly playoff games – would be a signal to what fans there are in Oklahoma that the team’s future there is on shaky footing; it could cause further damage to the market.

At A Glance…

As much as seeing the Barons in Edmonton would be good for fans here, and good for the bottom line of the Oilers organization, I just can’t see it happening this year. The hurdles are simply too big.

For fans hoping to watch the Oilers young stars live, the best hope right now is a breakthrough in collective bargaining. You know – after the two-week break.

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  • T__Bone88

    What is the average attendance for any AHL game? I’m sure it’s below the 5000 mark. It would be nice if there were more teams were in the west because right now most of the teams are in the NE coast.

  • Well, one thing is for certain. If OKC doesn’t turn the attendance around there won’t be hockey in both places.

    It’s really not working out there, I still don’t understand why they keep trying to put hockey in non- traditional markets?

    Put the team in a place that will appreciate and support it.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    I think they should do what TO does with regards to the Marlies and Leafs. Pay $10 more and get free tickets. So if you buy OKC Thunder tickets you get OKC Baron tickets? Under 13 and you get in free?

    Create incentives to go, other than watching elite level prospects…?

  • Calvin

    How much longer is the agreement in place with OKC. Is it a 3 year or 4 year commitment? As for games in Edmonton.No I don’t think we want another version of the Roadrunners in Edmonton to satisfy a short term problem. When football season is done we’ll get a true sense of where the Barons are at in terms of their place in the market.

    Would Saskatoon be a viable option for an AHL team? Or Kansas City? Where there isn’t an NBA team to compete against. The reason I float those 2 cities as possibilities is that both have been mentioned as NHL possibilities in the future.

    Once this CBA crud is done there has to be some forward thinking about what and where the NHL is going to go in the future. Would a 34-36 team league be out of the question? If the NHL wants to grow the league it has to encompass more of the North American market. Cities like Quebec City,Markham and Seattle would like franchises sooner than later. With Kansas City in the fold it would make for a more balanced southwest division. Trips to KC,St Louis Dallas,Phoenix and Nashville would be more viable.Seattle is the perfect foil to Vancouver and could easily make up a 5 team Pacific division.
    With Saskatoon a possibility a division of Edmonton,Calgary,Saskatoon,Colorado,Minnesota and Winnipeg would bring some bite to a Northwest division.

    It seems unwise for the NHL not to cash in on the current desires of markets in Canada and the US when they need that revenue to grow the game. Its behooves the NHL not to grow.

    OKC could easily move to KC next season and the NHL could test the market for an NHL franchise. Its my opinion that OKC has
    lost interest in hockey with the arrival of the OKC Thunder. The CHL prospered because it was homegrown and didn’t compete against the NBA. Only so many pesos to spend and the wallet has spoken in OKC. Best thing for both sides next season is to cut their losses and move on.

  • They should NOT play in edmonton. Katz made a deal with OKC. stick with it. You want pro hockey in etown katz…… get a cba done……. bwahahahahahahaha!!! AS FN IF!!!!

    Or take a break….. have the steeds down for some golf in palmy…. sniff some jocks….. be happy. Its a tradition after all.

  • #94 sized hole where my heart used to be...

    i dont know how the agreement works between the Oilers, the Barons and OKC but wouldnt something in the arena agreement or something to that affect prevent the OKC barons from moving until the deal is up? I don’t know the legalities and potential loopholes in such deals but you would think there would be some type of road block of this type

  • The Abbotsford game last week was broadcast in HD, so don’t tell me the illegal soviet-era pixel feeds we get otherwise couldn’t be better if someone decided to increase fan interest by dialing up the feed quality. Fans have to be interested first before they’ll buy a ticket.

    I’d bet there was a decision somewhere to release (intentionally) brutal video coverage so as not to deflect interest from the NHL when in fact that HD Barons game showed the level was pretty good.

    Following from that, I’d bet there’d be at least 10,000 people at RX1 to watch a Barons game. Same deal. Why would owners (or players for that matter) want to satiate fans’ interest for top tier hockey by providing a reasonable alternative? As long as fans crave NHL as much as they do both sides can drag out negotiations without worrying about dwindling fan interest.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go adjust my tin foil hat in the mirror.

  • 24% body fat

    OKC attendance will be up after HS and College football is over. This is around the time they will see that there team is good and heading towards the playoffs.

    Doesnt look good now, but we can hope by the time college football is done we are watching NHL games and OKC will have missed their chance.

  • Calvin

    On the short term would not be wise to yank a team that just arrived in town. They are competing against The Thunder , who are also a new team in town, but are the NBA and basketball on top of that, not to mention NCAA football, along with high school football, in a non hockey market. They may need some time to develop a fan base, but at the end, its the southern USA.Whats a puck?Oklahoma City is not the biggest city in the USA, probably in the area of 1 million plus.

    Televising games would be great, but once the NHL is back, the interest would wane. Besides economics might not work, as it probably cost something north of $200k to produce a game?

    Hint: Even in todays world, Dallas Stars are having a difficult time filling seats…

  • vetinari

    I don’t think that anything will happen this year unless they clearly want out of the city but maybe they should look to a market like Seattle (until an NHL team arrives there) or a Canadian market with only a CHL team like Saskatoon (closer to Edmonton for call-ups)

  • Spydyr

    No

    They are the OKC Barons.
    Not the Edmonton Barons.

    The team tried that with the Roadrunners.Worked out great.The Oilers had no minor league team for two years after.

    It is not a coincidence the team has missed the payoffs every year since,

  • atleastwehavethekhl

    The burn about the AHL for me is that the furthest Southeast they go is Texas.

    Why not consider Southern California for a franchise? The ECHL are already here. The Kings pull good attendance. Yes, the roadtrips would suck, but look at Abbotsford. They’re in the middle of nowhere!

  • 24% body fat

    Ya you cant play all the games there.

    Why not play a back to back game with abbotsford in Calgary and Edmonton. use the extra generated cash for give aways in Abbotsford and OKC

  • A co-worker of mine who spent a few months in Oklahoma on contract (no not hockey) told me that no matter which bar they went to (and they seemed to be outnumbered heavily by churches) they could NOT convince anyone to switch the TV to the NHL playoffs. So they sat there and watched stock cars go round and round. Even when the finals were on. This was not long BEFORE the NBA came to that town.

    I have no idea how an AHL franchise is going to succeed down there. No idea.

    • Rocket

      What is it with Americans and their aversion to showing hockey on T.V. in bars? Do they honestly think people will stop drinking?

      OMG HOCKEY IS ON! LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!

  • Time Travelling Sean

    I bought a 4 ticket package, row 3 behind the visitors bench for $108 total when the Barons visit Milwaukee Admirals – Jan.4th. I can handle the lockout until then:)

    Otherwise, ticket prices are comparable to Edmonton for the Wild.

  • Rocket

    With this current stalemate, does anyone think we will see a cancellation of the season in December with and replacement players come next year. I think its about to go ugly.

    • book¡e

      I don’t think so, because I think the owners basically have what they want and could, at any point, throw the NHLPA enough contract ‘wins’ that they could sell it to the players as a win.

      With that said, they won’t do that if they think Fehr wants to drive the season off a cliff. So, it really comes down to whether Fehr is just in it for the glory of the battle or if he is looking to represent the best interests of the Players.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Ok, lets see.

    Brutal attendance figures for the AHL Barons.

    Can’t get the locals to tune in at a sports bar. During the playoffs.

    NCAA football is option 1, 2, 3 and 5 in the local sports pecking order, NBA is option 4. Hockey rates between tractor pulls and Pop Warner football.

    Clearly OKC is unable or unwilling to support AHL hockey. Quick, someone call Bettman. OKC is a perfect candidate for expansion and Gary has some down time in the next couple of weeks.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Ok, let me give everyone a perspective from down here. I flew down to attend the two games against the Admirals(16th and 17th). I am more encouraged by what I see and hear from local fans here than I thought I would be. The only two complaints, or perhaps suggestions, are that 1: The games need to be televised, atleast occaisionally. 2: As far as ticket prices go, many people can drive just over 2 hours and attend a Stars game for similar amounts. For me, $38 to be 2 ft from Ebs, RNH and Hall is chicken feed, but it’s alittle steep for this economy. The building is nice(picture an arena being built in the Shaw), they do a tremendous job with public relations, promotions and the items in the Arena store are well priced. I would say that out of the 4300 attending the game, atleast 3000 were decked out in gear. And the kids love it, and that is the seed that needs time to grow. It’s only year two people. It will never be in the top 5 for sports, but I see a pretty rabid fan base(they have a better time than us…)that will grow to be something solid in 5-10 years.